Let us expand the scope of our ideas on Financial Intelligence to a larger scale. How would a financially intelligent economic system work? I believe that the answer lies with Buddhist Economics. The term ‘Buddhist Economics’ was first coined by E. F. Schumacher in his book ‘Small is Beautiful’ which was ranked among the 100 most influential book published after World War II. In this series of posts, we will examine and discuss the core ideas in his book.
‘Right Livelihood’ is one of the requirements of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. It is clear, therefore, that there must be such a thing as Buddhist economics.
There is universal agreement that a fundamental source of wealth is human labour. Now, the modern economist has been brought up to consider ‘labour’ or work as little more than a necessary evil.
From the point of view of the employer, it is in any case simply an item of cost, to be reduced to a minimum if it can not be eliminated altogether, say, by automation.
From the point of view of the workman, it is a "disutility"; to work is to make a sacrifice of one’s leisure and comfort, and wages are a kind of compensation for the sacrifice.
Hence the ideal from the point of view of the employer is to have output without employees, and the ideal from the point of view of the employee is to have income without employment.
The consequences of these attitudes both in theory and in practice are, of course, extremely far-reaching. If the ideal with regard to work is to get rid of it, every method that ‘reduces the work load’ is a good thing.
The most potent method, short of automation, is the so-called ‘division of labour’ and the classical example is the pin factory eulogised in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.
Here it is not a matter of ordinary specialization, which mankind has practiced from time immemorial, but of dividing up every complete process of production into minute parts, so that the final product can be produced at great speed without anyone having had to contribute more than a totally insignificant and, in most cases, unskilled movement of his limbs.
Buddhist View on Work
The Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least threefold:
1. To give man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties;
2. To enable him to overcome his ego-centredness by joining with other people in a common task; and
3. To bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence. Again, the consequences that flow from this view are endless.
To organise work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-racking for the worker would be little short of criminal; it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence.
Equally, to strive for leisure as an alternative to work would be considered a complete misunderstanding of one of the basic truths of human existence, namely that work and leisure are complementary parts of the same living process and cannot be separated without destroying the joy of work and the bliss of leisure.
I believe that most of us feel our working lives are drudgery and dull beyond disbelief. Why should that be the case? Has it ever occurred to you that our conventional economic system might be somewhat flawed and unsustainable? The following link is a notable example of this: Toyota Workers Finding Job Stressful. Any questions or comments are most welcome.